Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category
Some of life’s lessons are easy to learn – once we have been taught!
Readers be warned! This is one of my more subjective posts written in the hope that many will ‘connect’ with the emotions expressed.
I want to explore the power of touch.
Not just in a direct manner such as a hug or an arm around the shoulder but also the way that love can reach out and ‘touch’ us from afar. I’m going to do that by recounting something that Jean and I have experienced over the last couple of weeks. Here we go!
A while after we had moved to Payson in February, 2010 both Jean and I noticed that I was getting forgetful. Initially we thought it was just a characteristic of the vestibular migraine that I was diagnosed with in 2009 but eventually it seemed a good idea to have a local doctor here in Payson check me out. That examination took place last April 24th., a little over two weeks ago. The doctor dropped a huge bombshell in our laps by saying that she thought that I was exhibiting signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease!
To say that I was shocked was an understatement. Jean was beside herself with worry as her late American husband, who had died in 2005, had suffered badly from Alzheimer’s Disease for his last two years. We had 48-hours of wall-to-wall worry!
A few days later, I was getting very angry at the lack of gentleness in the way that the doctor had spoken to me. Jean had the brilliant idea of contacting a retired doctor friend. His response was loud and clear; he advised me to get a second opinion and continued by recommending a neurologist that he knew well. That appointment was held this last Tuesday, May 8th, down in Phoenix.
The neurologist asked me many questions, including such verbal tests as how many animals can you name in a minute, spell the word ‘world’ backwards, deduct 7 from 95 (and then keep deducting 7 from the resultant answer!!), and then undertook a physical examination including co-ordination skills, blood flow in the neck and other relevant aspects.
All of which lead him to the conclusion that I was not showing any signs of dementia. My forgetfulness was normal for someone of my age (67 last birthday) especially taking into account all the life changes of the past few years.
Then the neurologist went on to warn me about anxiety. He said it was a ‘killer’ of healthy bodies and healthy minds, especially as we got older. So my anxiety over my sister’s dementia, my half-sister living in Devon, England, whom I am very close to, is now badly affected by vascular dementia and got me thinking I might be following in her path, and my anxiety over thinking my life now was ‘too good to be true’, was getting in the way of me being a relaxed, ‘go with the flow’ individual.
Thus a couple of extremely stressful and worrying weeks came to a most wonderful conclusion; an outcome that couldn’t have been better. The degree of emotional and psychological disruption that Jean and I have been through was not however without some major lessons being learnt.
Being scared – I’ve always taken for granted that I would have good health throughout my life, aided and abetted by the fact that I have never been admitted to hospital and have avoided serious illnesses. The first doctor’s so-called diagnosis was one giant slap-in-the-face especially realising that the future in store could be a steady decline in my cognitive skills.
For the first time in my life I was truly scared and last Monday, the day before the visit to the neurologist, I broke down in Jean’s arms saying how scared I was. Revealing such vulnerability was not easy for me but being held by Jean under those circumstances was deep and pure bliss. As the saying goes, ‘If one doesn’t run the risk of being lost, then one can never be found.’
Love and friendship – The number of people that came up to Jean and me, gave us big hugs and said that they would be thinking of us during our trip down to Phoenix last Tuesday was indescribably beautiful. So many showed such a depth of feeling for what Jean and I were going through. Many others from distant places sent encouraging emails or telephoned. It all amounted to preventing us from feeling alone and reinforced our determination that whatever the medical outcome, we would find a way of handling it.
The power of the mind – my brother-in-law, in a recent telephone call, said that once the mind latches on to an idea, it does everything it can to reinforce that idea, however illogical it may be. Thus over the last couple of weeks, every time I dropped something, or forgot where I had put my glasses, or wasn’t clear which day of the week it was, and on and on, I used that as ‘proof’ that I was rapidly losing my mind. It should serve as a strong warning that we can literally think ourselves into a crisis!
The love between a dog and a human – hugging a dog when one is feeling emotionally vulnerable is beyond measure. Dogs always sense when we humans are feeling fragile and they offer their uncomplicated hearts to us without any condition or need for return. That selfless love is an inspiring example of what we all need to learn to give one another.
Touch and social intimacy – we have so much to learn from dogs when it comes to touch and social intimacy. We are all needy for touch.
Which leads me providentially to a recent item from Terry Hershey. Terry came to Payson in March, 2011 and he was a most inspirational speaker. I have followed him ever since.
Last Monday’s Sabbath Moment included the following story, republished with Terry’s kind permission – the story is all about touch!
Caroline was very sad. Caroline was only six years old and her father had just died. In fact, her father had been assassinated.
Sitting in the back of big black limousine, Caroline Kennedy didn’t quite know what to do with her sadness. On the seat next to her sat her nanny, Maud Shaw, and next to Maud, Caroline’s younger brother John.
Through the windshield Caroline could see her mother, Jackie, and her uncles, Robert and Ted, walking in front of the limousine as it slowly made it’s way down the Boulevard to St. Matthew’s Cathedral. Looking out of her side of the car, Caroline recognized the friendly face of Secret Service agent, Robert Foster. She liked and trusted Robert Foster.
Not knowing what to do with her sadness, and on impulse, she rolled down the window and stuck out her six-year old hand. Agent Foster had a choice to make. Secret Service agents are not allowed to have their hands occupied, needing to be ready for any emergency. But Robert Foster didn’t even think twice. He held Caroline’s hand tightly the entire way to the cathedral.
Later, Agent Foster said it was all he could do to “fight back his own tears of sadness, for little Caroline Kennedy.” When asked about his kindness, he seemed surprised, “All I did was hold a hand,” he answered.
Terry then goes on to say,
We all know sadness. Life breaks for each one of us in different ways and in different places. And sometimes the sadness seems too much to carry.
It requires courage to roll down the window, to connect or ask or invite. For whatever reason, there is a knee-jerk need to deny any sadness, or dismiss it, or apologize for it. “I’m sorry,” people will say, wiping away their tears, as if their sadness is a violation of some tenet of propriety. Heaven forbid if any humanity is exposed.
So sometimes I am afraid to ask. Not sometimes; most times. I don’t want to appear weak. Asking for help is a hard pill to swallow.
I spent Saturday in Clearwater, Florida, with a group talking about intimacy and communication. (Yes, it is easier to talk about than to practice.) Here’s what I told the group.
If we don’t bring it with us, we’re not going to find it there. Which means intimacy–trust, vulnerability, authenticity, honesty–begins here.
With me. With this me.
I was raised in a religious environment that taught me to eradicate my messiness (to quash my sadness or grief or untidiness).
I now believe differently. I now know that we find and express acceptance, love and grace (the place where we can be fully human), in our messy, imperfect, and fully thorny selves. In other words: We can embrace this life–without any need to photoshop it.
To be human is to be vulnerable. I am capable of being wounded and cut and sad… which also means that I am capable of being kind and generous and present.
In such moments of heartache, I can have the courage to ask for a hand to hold.
In such moments of heartache, I can have the courage to hold a hand the needs to be held.
Robert Foster didn’t think twice about holding a hand that needed to be held. And he wasn’t posturing or amassing heavenly brownie points. He was doing what needed to be done.
Here’s the deal: we don’t need more remedies or advice. We need more touch. We become more human when we touch. Why? Because when we touch, we are seen. And when we are seen, we recognize that our value is not tied solely to our sorrow.
And we, you and I, will find no better lesson to learn from our beautiful canine friends, than this lesson of touch.
A discovery of some writing from the past triggers memories.
Way back on the 15th November, 2009, I wrote a post about single-handed sailing and how it caused me much disquiet. Rather than just leave you with a link to that reflection, I’m going to include the post again, below. The reason is that a few days ago, in looking through some of my earlier writings in conjunction with a writing group that Jean and I belong to, I came across a piece that I wrote following a solo voyage from Larnaca in Cyprus, west along the Mediterranean Sea and then out over the Atlantic from Gibraltar to Horta on the island of Faial in the Azores. That last leg was a little over 1,100 nautical miles (1,300 land miles) and took me eight days.
So first here’s that earlier post from 2009.
A personal reflection on this rather strange way of travelling!
The recent Post about young Jessica Watson sailing alone around the world raised a few comments but also reminded me of my own experiences of solo sailing.
Some years ago, having successfully sold my own IT company, I warmed to the idea of being a full-time yachtie! A second-hand Tradewind 33 was discovered on the Island of Corfu. (Now here’s a surprise! I was just browsing the web looking for a picture of a Tradewind and came across my old yacht currently up for sale. Her name is Songbird of Kent! Picture below.)
Anyway, the deal was done and having sold my house in England I flew out to Corfu to collect Songbird of Kent. Inevitably it was a number of months before the boat was ready to head out into the Mediterranean but in early Spring 1988 it was time to explore the long coastlines of Greece and Turkey.
After a fantastic summer cruising from one idyllic anchorage to another mostly with friends or family on board, it was time to find a winter haven. Many recommended Larnaca Marina in Cyprus. Thus it was late in the summer of 1988 that I said goodbye to friends and set out on my own to cross from Antalya in Turkey to Cyprus and along the South coast of Cyprus to Larnaca, on the SE side of the island.
That sea crossing, a little over 200 nautical miles, was to become a regular solo experience at the start and end of each summer season. Impossible to do in a single day thus it always included a night at sea and rarely, if things didn’t go well with the weather, a couple of nights. I hated it! Maybe it was the sudden transition from coastal sailing to a deep water crossing, often going from having friends on board to being alone, but whatever it was I never enjoyed my time on my own and knew that long-distance solo sailing was never going to be my scene.
Anyway, I ended up spending several very happy winters in Larnaca.
One time, there was news of a Frenchman who had come into Larnaca on his way home to France having nearly completed a circumnavigation of the world. He was on his own!
I was astounded to hear how someone could do this and made a point of calling round to his berth. The boat was a beautiful, solid steel yacht, the very epitome of a craft that could challenge the oceans. The owner’s name was Pierre (it would be!). Pierre invited me aboard and we went down to his saloon to drink a hot coffee – real French coffee!
Inevitably the conversation turned to the challenges of sailing alone. Pierre said that the big cargo ships at sea moved quickly relative to the speed of a yacht so at night he set an alarm for every 15 minutes. That was the time that a ship could go from being hull down over the horizon to being close enough to be a hazard. Thus while at sea Pierre got up briefly every 15 minutes during the night to avoid being run down! It sounded totally exhausting.
Then Pierre asked me about the sailing I had done and whether I had sailed on my own. I declared my trivial journeys back and forth from Cyprus to Turkey and revealed that being on my own made me very, very unhappy. Pierre was surprised to hear that as he admitted that being at sea alone was one of the most tranquil and peaceful experiences ever. Pierre asked how long these solo journeys took. I replied, two or three days.
“Ah!”, he said, “That is the problem.” “I, too, hate the three days. It is always a period where you adjust and it is terrible.“
“My friend, you must find a way to be alone for more than three days. You will see that it is very different.“
It was some years before that opportunity came about but, in the end, I did undertake a solo journey of 8 days. Pierre was right. The first three days were hell, the rest were heaven!
Thank you, Songbird of Kent, you gave me some fabulous memories!
By Paul Handover
Now on to my writings about being out at sea alone on a small yacht.
Being at Sea
Going to sea in a small vessel is a profound experience.
In harbour we build up a reliance on things external. We have no need to worry if there is insufficient food on board, we can plug into the dockside power supply, sleep through the night undisturbed and we can wander off and enjoy the company of others if the boat feels a little claustrophobic.
Then slowly, imperceptibly, but with huge force, arrives the need to move on. The realisation that our cosy life connected to the busy, bustling and self-obsessed world of shoreside is not fulfilling our search for adventure and for the truths that lay over the horizon. It is time to leave.
The act of casting off is always exciting as it heralds a new adventure. But it also carries feelings of loss and apprehension as one lets go of the bonds of a previous certainty. The first few hours are filled with the workload of getting one’s craft shipshape and battened down for the unknown seas. Then gradually comes the realisation that the land is now less the dominating visual feature than the vastness of the seascape that is ahead. But with the land in sight, albeit a distant horizon behind one, you can still sense the life you are leaving.
Now all that surrounds you is the sea. You are now truly disconnected from the land. It is often at this point that despondency and uncertainty play with your mind; after all this new life is still very unfamiliar compared to the warmth of that island home that still resonates in your heart. Time to remind yourself of why you wanted to take this voyage.
A small boat is very fragile. Just a centimetre of hull separating you from the unimaginable depths of the ocean beneath your keel. Not until the end of your voyage, when you draw your boat up, metaphorically on to that beach, will you ever stop feeling how close fate is, how it rides on your shoulder night and day. That, of course, is why we go to sea. It is the place where we taste life, where we savour each moment of the present because the future seems too bound up in the mystery, the uncertainty of the ocean. You are in charge of your tiny craft. Your survival depends on how you manage your small ship, how you navigate these seas, how you read the weather ahead and avoid the storms.
Soon your life on the ocean becomes everything to you. You have time to reflect on so much that is left behind. The distance seems to dissolve all the nuisances, bring into focus all the things that are important to you. There is no certainty with the ocean apart from the knowledge that you are very small and very, very vulnerable and yet, in a sense, also so strong.
In the end, we have to break away from our insecurities and our emotional dependencies on external people and situations because, without that, we are never able to command our own life and the destiny that flows from that captaincy. There is a real strength in knowing ourselves as we would know our own boat. If we really know every spar, sail, rope and fitting, if we have real understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of our small vessel then we are able to know when to breast the waves or when to turn and run before the storm. We are secure that our small craft will protect us day and night.
Thus self-knowledge gives us the same freedom to manage our lives, to know when to fight and when to turn away. And just as after every long voyage the boat will need hours of careful maintenance so our own souls need regular love and caring from our spiritual keeper.
Copyright © 2008 Paul Handover
A guest post from Sue Dreamwalker.
Sue has been a wonderful supporter of Learning from Dogs for which I am very grateful. Sue is the author of the blog, Dreamwalker’s Sanctuary and I do recommend that you pop across there and read her wonderful Posts. Recently, I read a beautiful poem that Sue had written and not only did she give me permission to republish that Post but also offered the following introduction. Thank you, Sue. The rest is all Sue!
First my thanks go to Paul who continues to awaken our knowledge to the Earth and our environment and whose posts are in-depth and informative posts on subjects which we should all be immersed in.
For Planet Earth is our Home and she is dying. And we Humans are still in a slumber as to the destruction we have inflicted upon her.
Our Native American Brothers knew long ago that we have to balance nature and we should only take that which we need.. But we have used Greed as our cutting tools and we as a species have become out of balance with nature and ourselves.
Paul has kindly asked if he could re-blog my poem . This poem speaks of those changes we all feel is happening within our world. I firmly believe like the Native Americans that we are united in Consciousness and that extends to our Earth Mother. We are linked together As One.
The Winds Of Change
The Winds of Change.
The Winds of Change flow across our land
Sweeping us up like the grains of sand
Twisting us round to look in the mirror
Cutting us deep to make us consider…
Our past which holds so many stains
As Ego rules in a world full of pain
The winds of Change are here to uplift
It’s time for Humanity to embrace all her gifts
But before we fly along with the wind
Mankind is reaping all his sown sins
The Anger, the Hatred, the Greed and his Pride
Will no longer have any places to hide
For the Winds of Change a tornado will swirl
As into the Abyss the Material will hurl
A river so deep into Oceans will run
With all tears cried from when time first begun
A cleansing of hearts as each soul will cry
As the Winds of Change blows into our eyes
Eyes that will open as we come awake
And Mankind will realise he can no longer take
The road of discovery can often be hard
A lonely walk as the Winds they bombard
It strips us bare to reveal our true souls
In a journey we’ve walked from Millennia of old
And as our tears fall they wash us all clean
Of the lies of the Past and all that has been
The Winds of Change it whistles in our Hearts
Get ready to fly – for we’re soon to depart.
Many things are happening around our world right now, and for many we are all going through some personal changes.. Change is always hard, and painful, for we resist it as we cling onto that which is familiar. But without Change we do not grow, or progress..
Some of those Changes which are taking place around our Earth are bringing with it tears..
Tears we weep help cleanse our inner-most souls as we wash ourselves from within and we release our emotions.
So, too, our Earth Mother is getting ready for Change… her Winds too are blowing a warning, as she is releasing her tears as she lets them spill as rain..
Too long has she held them within…
We are One with Mother Nature… Watch her, as she is stirring..
She is Changing, and as she does we will feel her shake, as her body sobs.
By sending out your love,
By loving your selves we are helping each other over these Changes..
We are helping Unite ourselves and Mother Earth once again in Harmony
A tree knows how to bend in the wind, or it breaks and falls..
Water finds its path as it flows into ALL to find its own level
So too we must go within that flow and follow our hearts
We need to be that Oneness,
We need to stop hurting one another,
We need to breath in that Light of Love
And Share it in Unity of Oneness
This is the Time of Change
Let the Winds blow
Love into your
Native American Indian Quote
“You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers.
So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin.
Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the earth is our mother.
Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth.
If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.”
~ Unknown ~
© Sue Dreamwalker – 2012 All rights reserved.
Taking a bit of a breather.
All my life, well all the years that I have appreciated a ‘tea-break’, stopping for a cup of hot tea has been laden with symbolism. A chance to let the brain catch up with whatever one is doing. When working with others an opportunity to stand back and evaluate how the particular project is going. When sharing a project with a loved one, an opportunity to lay down memories for future years, and so forth. (Jean and I were building a chicken coop yesterday afternoon.) Sure there are millions of people that share these feelings.
Anyway, as many of you have been aware, the last 10 days or so on Learning from Dogs have been pretty ‘full-on’ in terms of man and Planet Earth. It started with me publishing on the 27th February a Post called Please help! - A plea to those who understand climate science so much better than I do!. Then on the 2nd March, I republished a Post from Patrice Ayme called The collapse of the biosphere.
Then on the 5th March, with a big thanks to Dan Gomez, I published A skeptic’s view and then responded to that Post with Reply to a skeptic on the 8th March. Finally, last Friday, I republished a Post first seen on Naked Capitalism which I called I must go down to the sea again, spelt H2CO3!
That there were a total of 6,313 viewings of those Posts and 69 comments (OK, that doesn’t mean different individuals) was incredibly gratifying – a very big ‘thank you’ to all of you that read the Posts, and likewise to those that commented.
But one of the most wonderful aspects for me was the incredible sharing of ideas and resources. So the point of today’s Post is to bring all those links and contacts onto one ‘page’, so to speak.
On October 28, 2010 historian of science Naomi Oreskes gave a presentation at Forum Lectures (US Embassy Brussels), based on her new book, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, about how right wing scientists founded the George Marshall Institute which has become a key hub for successfully spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt about climate change, along with other environmental issues, and how myths about science enable these political strategies to work.
An in-depth video of over an hour from the University of Rhode Island’s Spring 2010 Vetlesen Lecture Series, hugely worth watching, is here.
Then there is the powerful blog site, De Smog Blog. As the site explains, “The DeSmogBlog Project began in January 2006 and quickly became the world’s number one source for accurate, fact based information regarding global warming misinformation campaigns. TIME Magazine named DeSmogBlog in its “25 Best Blogs of 2011″ list.“
Moving on. One of the challenges is knowing how to look up some reasonably reliable information about a person who is claiming this or that. That’s where SourceWatch is invaluable. The website describes itself, “The Center for Media and Democracy publishes SourceWatch, this collaborative resource for citizens and journalists looking for documented information about the corporations, industries, and people trying to influence public policy and public opinion. We believe in telling the truth about the most powerful interests in society—not just relating their self-serving press releases or letting real facts be bleached away by spin.“
Let me give you an example of how SourceWatch works. In my Post A skeptic’s view, Dan offered extensive comment about U.S. Senator James Inhofe’s book The Greatest Hoax. A quick search on SourceWatch revealed (a) (my emboldening)
Arthur B. Robinson is one of the three co-founders of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, a group best known for organising a petition disputing the scientific evidence for human-induced global warming.
On January 7, 2009, the Willamette Week reported that Robinson is “in the vanguard of a small but vocal and persistent collection of scientists, industry advocates and commentators who dismiss human culpability for climate change. … Robinson’s critics say his analysis is simplistic, but it remains persuasive a decade later with powerful policymakers like U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a visible and effective player in blocking a bill to limit greenhouse-gas emissions last fall.
and then very quickly revealed (b),
James Mountain Inhofe, usually known as Jim Inhofe, has been a Republican Senator for Oklahoma since winning a special election in 1994.
James M. Inhofe has voted in favor of big oil companies on 100% of important oil-related bills from 2005-2007, according to Oil Change International. These bills include Iraq war funding, climate change studies, clean energy, and emissions.
On to another book. I forget who recommended the book by James Hansen, Storms of my Grandchildren but it’s another ‘must-read’ for all those wanting to better understand the risks that lay ahead. As the book’s website explains,
In Storms of My Grandchildren, Dr. James Hansen—the nation’s leading scientist on climate issues—speaks out for the first time with the full truth about global warming: The planet is hurtling even more rapidly than previously acknowledged to a climatic point of no return.
On that website there is a section Hansen On The Issues that includes this 2-minute YouTube video of Dr. Hansen talking about his book.
I can’t close without mentioning some other wonderful websites. There is Skeptical Science, described thus,
Explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation
Scientific skepticism is healthy. Scientists should always challenge themselves to improve their understanding. Yet this isn’t what happens with climate change denial. Skeptics vigorously criticise any evidence that supports man-made global warming and yet embrace any argument, op-ed, blog or study that refutes global warming. This website gets skeptical about global warming skepticism. Do their arguments have any scientific basis? What does the peer reviewed scientific literature say?
Then there’s ClimateSight, a wonderful effort by Kate, “Kate is a B.Sc. student and aspiring climatologist from the Canadian prairies. She started writing this blog when she was sixteen, simply to keep herself sane, but hopes that she’ll be able to spread accurate information about climate change far and wide while she does so.” Kate’s interest and passion in the subject is unmissable and it’s a real pleasure to subscribe to her postings.
350.org is building a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. Our online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions are led from the bottom up by thousands of volunteer organizers in over 188 countries.
350 means climate safety. To preserve our planet, scientists tell us we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 392 parts per million to below 350 ppm. But 350 is more than a number—it’s a symbol of where we need to head as a planet.
350.org works hard to organize in a new way—everywhere at once, using online tools to facilitate strategic offline action. We want to be a laboratory for the best ways to strengthen the climate movement and catalyze transformation around the world.
Read the full statement here.
RealClimate is a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science. All posts are signed by the author(s), except ‘group’ posts which are collective efforts from the whole team. This is a moderated forum.
There are so many more fabulous sources of real caring about the society we are and, more importantly, the society we hope to be. In this category comes Wibble. Then there’s Dogs of Doubt, that I shall be referring to tomorrow on Learning from Dogs, and The Green Word and so on and so on. It shows the power of ‘hands across the ether’ that the modern world of web sites now offers. I put great faith in this power becoming the power of truth and the power of change. (If you have a blog or a website that resonates with the ones mentioned here, please do drop me an email giving me details.)
Finally, I’m closing with this. If it all sometimes feels too much for you and you want to drift away into the world of the inner consciousness, into the world of dreamtime, then you can do no worse than to call by Sue Dreamwalker‘s wonderful website. Try this, for example. Dan and I had no idea what we were getting into.
Oh blast, my tea’s gone cold!
A poetic response from reader Marcia G.
He stood across the street and sadly saw
The little match girl standing in the rain;
She looked as if she didn’t have a prayer.
He wondered why there wasn’t yet a law
To spare her from unnecessary pain,
And how could people just walk by her there?
He raised his head toward Heav’n in awe and fear
And let the raindrops hit his youthful face,
While speaking toward the softly weeping sky,
“Dear God, why haven’t you done something here?
“I have the faith that You’re nearby some place,
“But there’s no sign that you’ve been helping; why?”
Then God replied, “I have…it’s nothing new;
“For such a purpose I created you.”
Thank you, Marcia.
When I see how this new, virtual world connects us across the world with so many others that know what is truly important, I do have hope for the future.
Leaning on a recent item from Terry Hershey
As many of you will appreciate, this has been a bit of a week. It started last Sunday with my contribution to the national ‘preach-in’ for the health of our planet, and ended with the sad loss of Phoebe. I normally post something light-hearted or trivial for the week-end but seem to be in a more reflective mood just now (Friday).
For some time I have subscribed to the weekly spiritual offering from Terry Hershey and am going to republish a story that came out from Terry Hershey on the 13th.
Letting go and walking
February 13, 2012
Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go. Herman Hesse.
Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security. John Allen Paulos
When you let go of trying to get more of what you don’t really need, it frees up oceans of energy to make a difference with what you have. Lynne Twist
And now the story,
There is a Tibetan story about an earnest young man seeking enlightenment. (Earnest people must think this quite unfair–since they play a central role in most parables and stories about enlightenment.)
A famous sage passes through the man’s village. The man asks the sage to teach him the art of meditation. The sage agrees. He tells the man, “Withdraw from the world. Mediate every day in the specific way I will teach you. Do not waver and you will attain enlightenment.”
The earnest man follows the sage’s instructions to the letter. Time passes–and no enlightenment. Two years, five, ten, twenty pass.
It happens that the sage once again passes through the man’s village. The man seeks him out, grumbling that despite his best intentions and devotion and diligent efforts, he does not achieve enlightenment. “Why?”
The sage asks, “What type of meditation did I teach you?“
The man tells him.
The sage says, “Oh, what a terrible mistake I made! That is not the right meditation for you. You should have done another kind altogether. Too bad, for now it is too late.”
Disconsolate, the man returns to his cave. Staking his life on the sage’s instructions, and now believing he is without hope, the man abandons all his wishes and efforts and need to control his road to enlightenment. He does not know what to do. So, he does what knows best: he begins meditating. And in a short while, much to his astonishment, his confusion begins to dissolve, and his inner world comes to life. A weight falls away and he feels lighter, and regenerated. When he walks out of the cave, the sky is bluer, the snow capped mountains whiter, and the world around him more vivid.
There is no doubt that all too often, our efforts–to succeed or achieve or attain–get in the way of our living. It brings to mind my favorite Robert Capon quote, “We live life like ill-taught piano students. So inculcated with the flub that will get us in dutch, we don’t hear the music, we only play the right notes.”
I understand. I was weaned on a spirituality that predicated itself on artifice. In other words, the importance is placed upon appearance, rather that just being. (It was vital to “look spiritual.” Which begs the question, “What do spiritual people look like?” As a boy, I always thought the “spiritual people” looked as if some part of their clothing was a size too small.)
What is it we are holding on to–so rigid, so firm, white-knuckled in our determination? At some point, we’ve got to breathe. Just breathe. Without realizing it (and after the sage’s disheartening news), the man in the story “let go.”
He let go of the need to see life as a problem to be solved.
He let go of the need to have the correct answers (or experiences) for his “enlightenment.”
He let go of the need to see his spiritual life in terms of a formula.
He let go of the restraints that come from public opinion.
Abandon your masterpiece, sink into the real masterpiece.
Without realizing it, he took Leonard Cohen’s advice. He abandoned his “masterpiece”–the perception of what he needed to accomplish, or how he needed to appear, or what he needed to feel–in order to allow himself to sink down into this life, this moment, even with all of its uncertainty and insecurity.
So a big thank you to Terry Hershey for those words of wisdom.
Now we are down to nine.
Back on the 18th January we had a scare in that we lost Hazel for a few hours; I wrote about that here. The reason that comes to mind so clearly is that on the 19th we took our dog, Phoebe, down to see a specialist vet in Phoenix.
Phoebe had been showing signs of blood in her stools but otherwise was a fit and happy dog and still eating well. Our local vet thought that a colonoscopy might throw some better light on the problem. In fact, the specialist in Phoenix rapidly identified swollen lymph glands, gave Phoebe a scan and diagnosed lymphoma. It was a bombshell, more so as the specialist didn’t give Phoebe’s chances at much more than 7 to 10 days.
One of the recommendations from the specialist was to put Phoebe immediately on a grain-free diet and we have subsequently learnt the dangers of many grain-based dog foods. We declined chemotherapy as her liver had already been compromised.
The change of diet plus boundless love and attention extended Phoebe’s life until yesterday morning when, around 3.15 am she had a seizure and entered a coma. By 7.30 am Phoebe was very weak and not registering the world around her. But she wasn’t in pain, and to the best of our knowledge, had not experienced pain during her last journey.
Sometime around 9am Phoebe slipped away and Jean and I buried her a little later. She lies in peace, under the shade of a tall Ponderosa pine.
Phoebe was such a sweet, loving dog. Jean found her back in the Summer of 2004 when Jean was living, with her late husband Ben, in the coastal Mexican town of San Carlos. Jean had been running a dog rescue operation for years just out of her love for dogs.
Jean came across this young, female dog, about 4 months old, running through the village of Santa Clara about 12 miles from San Carlos. The dog was really thin and didn’t seem to belong to anyone so Jean brought her back to San Carlos and placed her in the lot where she looked after her rescue dogs while they were waiting for adoption by caring humans. Jean found that this little black dog was totally friendly and loving to all. But within a few weeks some of the bigger dogs in the lot started to pick on her and, Phoebe, as she was now known was taken back to Jean’s house and that was that.
And a final footnote.
Back to Phoebe’s seizure around 3am on Thursday morning. Something woke me around 3.10am and I rolled out of the bed to make tracks for the bathroom. Pharaoh sleeps on his blanket just inside the door to the bedroom and is always dead to the world until 7am, give or take.
But not yesterday morning. He was sitting on his haunches, facing the closed door and totally alert. He knew something was wrong in the room where Phoebe was, despite there being no sound at all. Jean and I like to think that the last message that Phoebe sent out to her world was heard by Pharaoh.
An unanticipated reward from Blogging.
When I started writing Learning from Dogs, way back on July 15th 2009, I didn’t have a clue as to the world I was entering, figuratively speaking. But there have been many unanticipated rewards including the great pleasure of the way that this strange virtual world of the Internet brings people together. One connection recently made was with a young Bangladeshi living in the city of Dhaka, more of his background here.
Nakib recently published a powerful and moving Post and has been gracious in allowing me to republish it, as follows:
The vulture that waited for the child to die
The photo shows a famine-stricken child crawling towards a United Nations food camp, which was located at least one kilometer away from the place shown. The vulture on the other hand is waiting eagerly for the child to die so that it can devour it.
I do not know what message the photograph revokes on your head but every time I look at it I feel blessed that I have been provided enough at least to satisfy my hungry stomach and keep me energetic enough to write blogs. I feel small and humble when I think of all the people suffering out there— homeless and starved— yet trying their best to make some sense of the complex notion known as life. It tells me that I have been blessed for a reason, for a purpose, and whatever I have been provided with should not go in vain. I can infer that my powers should be used well, at least for that little kid on the above photograph for whom Fate had sealed a quicksand of reality too hard to acknowledge for many of us hedonists out here.
Most importantly, to me the photograph conveys an emotion; a reality that many of us are too blind to grasp. I think of how people throughout the world are suffering to no ends yet amidst everything trying again and again to find the silver lining associated with the black cloud. I realize that there is a lot happening outside my comfortable apartment and Biology textbook that needs looking after, that there is a lot of people who strive hard yet achieve nothing in return. It amazes me when I try to ponder God’s sense of justice and egalitarianism.
So is it okay for the blessed 25% of the population in this world to waste everything that life has given them while the the rest 75% live amidst severe poverty, oppression and inequality? Is it okay to go overboard with New Year parties while exactly at the same hour millions of people across the globe are suffering from the fangs of social deprivation? Is it okay to let things be as they are and forget about everything so as to harmoniously embrace useless ambitions and lustful desires?
Have we all truly forgotten to share our wealth and about the latent human being that exists inside everyone of us? Have we truly gottten rid of all those emotions that make us human beings? Is this what the world is for: for some to live lavishly while for the rest to suffer endlessly?
Three months after he took the photograph Kevin Carter, after suffering from several periods of depression, committed suicide.
Dated on the day the photo was taken, the following note was found from his diary:
Dear God, I promise I will never waste my food no matter how bad it can taste and how full I may be. I pray that He will protect this little boy, guide and deliver him away from his misery. I pray that we will be more sensitive towards the world around us and not be blinded by our own selfish nature and interests. I hope this picture will always serve as a reminder to us that how fortunate we are and that we must never ever take things for granted.
As for the child, no one really knows what happened to him; not even the South African photographer who had left the place immediately after the photo was taken. I try to appease myself by saying that the child never existed in the first place. God simply intended to provide us with a glimpse of the truth of life, to remind us how blessed we are. I hope this is true.
Very, very moving and beautifully expressed.
The National Preach-In held the week-end of February 11th/12th.
Some while ago, I signed up for a week-end organised by the Arizona Interfaith Power & Light. It was part of a national programme inviting faith leaders from across the country to give sermons and reflections on climate change over the weekend of February 10-12, 2012. My interest was simply to learn more about the week-end.
Then I quickly discovered that Father Dan from our church, St. Paul’s, had also signed up. In my innocence I offered to help in any way which was quickly met by a response that bowled me over, “Well, you can be the homilist and give the sermon!” Thus it came about that at yesterday’s 8am and 10am services yours truly rather uncertainly delivered the sermon. John H., who with my dear wife Jeannie, did so much to turn my rambling thoughts into a coherent theme, encouraged me to publish the sermon as today’s Post on Learning from Dogs. It now follows.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Payson, Arizona
The 6th Sunday after the Epiphany
February 12th, 2012
2 Kings 5:1-14 X Psalm 30 1:13 X 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 X Mark 1:40-45
It was just a photograph. OK, one taken 43 years ago but, so what! Well, the late Galen Rowell, the famous Californian wilderness photographer called it, “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.”
We are talking about the photograph called ‘Earthrise’ taken from Apollo 8 on December 24th, 1968 during the first manned mission to the Moon. Each of you should have a copy of that picture close by. Look at it now and let your imagination be carried back to that Apollo 8 capsule and that momentous experience.
As the Earth rose above the horizon of the moon, NASA astronaut Frank Borman uttered the words, “Oh my God! Look at that picture over there! Here’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty.” Bill Anders then took the ‘unscheduled’ photograph.
Then recall that evening, Christmas Eve 1968, when the three NASA crew members took turns reading from the book of Genesis to what was probably the biggest audience ever in the history of television, Frank Borman finishing with the words, “God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good.”
Our planet is good, and so beautiful, and so precious to life. Life that arose in just a fraction of time after the Solar System formed 3.7 billion years ago; the oldest traces of life have been found in fossils dating back 3.4 billion years. That miracle of life.
Who hasn’t gazed into a clear, Arizonan, night sky and been lost in the beauty above our heads. Or felt the wind, flowing across ancient lands, kiss our face. We stand so mite-like, so insignificant in all this immensity of creation; God’s creation.
Our dreams, our hopes and failures, everything we are, have ever been and ever will be, nothing more than a swirl of dust across a desert track.
Jeremiah was called to be a prophet in 626 BC, some 2,638 years ago. In Jeremiah 12:4 he wrote, “How long will the land mourn, and the grass of every field wither? For the wickedness of those who live in it, the animals and the birds are swept away…”
Words from so long ago! But Jeremiah would, surely, have gasped with disbelief had he realised how, some 2,600 years later, ‘the land now mourns and the grasses so wither’.
Jeremiah reveals much that we all could learn about ourselves. The other prophets couldn’t be accused of hiding behind their work but Jeremiah, out of all of them, allowed us to see the evidence of his own spiritual condition. He was a man of deep feelings and sensibilities and in his book there are five laments over the serious spiritual and moral condition of God’s people. That’s us, by the way!
In that time of Jeremiah, the world population was 100 million persons; slightly less than the population of Mexico today.
Some 1,350 years later, 1,000 A.D., the global population was 265 million.
But by the year 2,000 A.D., our population had increased to 6,000 millions! Put another way, that’s an increase of 5.7 million people every year for a 1,000 years !
Any guesses on the increase in the last 12 years, since 2,000? Well, the global population has increased by 990 million. About 90 million every year!
It is utterly unsustainable at present levels of Western consumption, let alone with poorer nations trying to ‘catch up’.
Last September, our House of Bishops issued A Pastoral Teaching. Our Bishops believe those ancient words of Jeremiah describe these present times. They call us to repentance, to change.
That Pastoral Teaching, in part, says, “Christians cannot be indifferent to global warming, pollution, natural resource depletion, species extinctions, and habitat destruction, all of which threaten life on our planet. Because so many of these threats are driven by greed, we must also actively seek to create more compassionate and sustainable economies that support the well-being of all God’s creation.”
Our bishops refer to The Anglican Communion Environmental Network that calls to mind the dire consequences that our environment faces, again I quote: “We know that we are now demanding more than the earth is able to provide. Science confirms what we already know: our human footprint is changing the face of the earth and because we come from the earth, it is changing us too. We are engaged in the process of destroying our very being. If we cannot live in harmony with the earth, we will not live in harmony with one another.“
Let those words enter our souls: “If we cannot live in harmony with the earth, we will not live in harmony with one another.” Planet Earth mirrors our souls! Nothing new about that. In 1975, Berkeley physicist Fritjof Capra wrote in his book The Tao of Physics, “we can never speak of nature without, at the same time, speaking about ourselves”.
Fr. Dan reflected in his January 22nd sermon on the questions, “Am I really free? Can I really change?” ….. and continued with the words from Jesus, “The time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God has come near, Repent.” Fr. Dan reminded us that the word ‘repent’ indicates that we can change. We can change, we must, and we will.
Otherwise we will learn the truth of that Cree prophecy, “When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.”
OK, from out of the mouths of North American Braves to out of the mouths of English babes.
The ‘eat money’ phrase reminds me of a story I heard years ago, back in England. You need to imagine a dilapidated, rural Anglican church with a dwindling congregation. A young boy was given a five pound note to put in the collection plate. When the offering came around, he didn’t put it in. However, after the end of the service, he went up to the vicar, shook his hand and gave him the five pound note. The vicar asked him, “Why are you giving me this money? Why didn’t you put it in the collection plate?”
The young boy answered, “Because my Mummy told me you’re the poorest vicar we’ve ever had!”
Let me stay in Britain. Martin Rees is a British cosmologist and astrophysicist and has been Britain’s Astronomer Royal since 1995.
Sir Martin Rees, indeed Lord Rees as he is now, has been Master of Trinity College, Cambridge since 2004 and was President of the Royal Society between 2005 and 2010.
In a presentation in 2005, he said this, “We can trace things back to the earlier stages of the Big Bang, but we still don’t know what banged and why it banged.”
Lord Rees continued, “But the unfinished business for 21st-century science is to link together cosmos and micro-world with a unified theory. And until we have that synthesis, we won’t be able to understand the very beginning of our universe. You want to not only synthesise the very large and the very small, but we want to understand the very complex. And the most complex things are ourselves, midway between atoms and stars.”
Hang on to that word ‘midway’ as I continue reading from Rees’ presentation.
“We depend on stars to make the atoms we’re made of. We depend on chemistry to determine our complex structure. We clearly have to be large, compared to atoms, to have layer upon layer of complex structure. We clearly have to be small, compared to stars and planets — otherwise we’d be crushed by gravity.
And in fact, we are midway. It would take as many human bodies to make up the sun as there are atoms in each of us. The geometric mean of the mass of a proton and the mass of the sun is 50 kilogrammes (110 lbs), within a factor of two of the mass of each person here. Well, most of you anyway!”
Back to me! Just reflect on the magnificence of that fact! Science and poetry so beautifully woven together. We, as in humankind, the poetic manifestations of God’s unbelievable creation. Our relationship with the atoms perfectly balanced with our relationship with the sun. Brings a whole new meaning to seeing starlight in the eyes of the one you love!
It is all so beautiful, so magical, so spiritual, so God-like. It is also so fragile and vulnerable.
There is a copy of that Pastoral Teaching available for you on your way out of Church. I implore you to read it, nay more than read it, hold it close to your heart. Within that teaching all of us are invited to join our Bishops in a 5-point commitment for the good of our souls and the life of the world, our beautiful planet; the essence of those 5 points being:
That we, as brothers and sisters in Christ, commit ourselves:
- To repent all acts of greed, over-consumption, and waste;
- To pray for environmental justice, for sustainable development;
- To practice environmental stewardship and justice, energy conservation, the use of clean, renewable sources of energy; and wherever we can to reduce, reuse, and recycle;
- To uproot the political, social, and economic causes of environmental destruction and abuse;
- To advocate for a “fair, ambitious, and binding” climate treaty, and to work toward climate justice through reducing our own carbon footprint and advocating for those most negatively affected by climate change.
As our Bishops wrote, “May God give us the grace to heed the warnings of Jeremiah and to accept the gracious invitation of the incarnate Word to live, in, with, and through him, a life of grace for the whole world, that thereby all the earth may be restored and humanity filled with hope.”
I started with the taking of a photograph 43 years ago that forever changed our view of our planet. Now is the time to change our relationship with our planet, to love it and cherish it; it’s the only one we have. Otherwise, we may not have another 43 years left.
Or in the words from today’s Psalm, “O LORD my God, I cried out to you, and you restored me to health.”
Continuing from Part One last Friday.
Last Friday I started re-publishing the wonderful comments that had appeared on Climate Sight in response to a question that I had raised, namely,
“While in every way that I can think of, I support the premise of mankind affecting global climate, I would love to hear from someone who could reconcile the Post above with these recent items:” and then included the links to the WSJ and Daily Mail items.
If you are not familiar with those WSJ and Daily Mail items, then you will need to go back to Friday’s Post.
So moving on.
The third response was from chrisd3, here’s what he wrote,
Paul, here is the Met Office’s response, which begins, “[The Daily Mail] article includes numerous errors in the reporting of published peer reviewed science undertaken by the Met Office Hadley Centre and for Mr. Rose to suggest that the latest global temperatures available show no warming in the last 15 years is entirely misleading.”
Here is Deltoid taking David Rose apart on some earlier pieces:
And NASA never said anything about the Thames freezing over. Rose just made that bit up.
Finally, here is a chart of global temps from HadCRU:
From this, it is pretty clear why Rose chooses 15 years as his starting point: 1997-1998 was the time of the largest El Nino ever recorded, resulting in a huge temperature spike. Using that as the starting point for a temperature comparison is absolutely classic cherry-picking.
And in any event, you can’t say anything about trends in noisy data by simply comparing two arbitrary points. That is not a valid way to analyze the data (especially if you pick an obvious outlier as your starting point!). It is like trying to say whether the tide is coming in or going out by looking at the height of two waves. It just doesn’t work that way. You have to look at the long-term trend to remove the noise.
Let me take you to that Met Office response (and I’m republishing it in full).
Met Office in the Media: 29 January 2012
Today the Mail on Sunday published a story written by David Rose entitled “Forget global warming – it’s Cycle 25 we need to worry about”.
This article includes numerous errors in the reporting of published peer reviewed science undertaken by the Met Office Hadley Centre and for Mr. Rose to suggest that the latest global temperatures available show no warming in the last 15 years is entirely misleading.
Despite the Met Office having spoken to David Rose ahead of the publication of the story, he has chosen to not fully include the answers we gave him to questions around decadal projections produced by the Met Office or his belief that we have seen no warming since 1997.For clarity I have included our full response to David Rose below:A spokesman for the Met Office said: “The ten year projection remains groundbreaking science. The complete period for the original projection is not over yet and these projections are regularly updated to take account of the most recent data.
- “The projections are probabilistic in nature, and no individual forecast should be taken in isolation. Instead, several decades of data will be needed to assess the robustness of the projections.
“However, what is absolutely clear is that we have continued to see a trend of warming, with the decade of 2000-2009 being clearly the warmest in the instrumental record going back to 1850. Depending on which temperature records you use, 2010 was the warmest year on record for NOAA NCDC and NASA GISS, and the second warmest on record in HadCRUT3.”
Furthermore despite criticism of a paper published by the Met Office he chose not to ask us to respond to his misconceptions. The study in question, supported by many others, provides an insight into the sensitivity of our climate to changes in the output of the sun.
It confirmed that although solar output is likely to reduce over the next 90 years this will not substantially delay expected increases in global temperatures caused by greenhouse gases. The study found that the expected decrease in solar activity would only most likely cause a reduction in global temperatures of 0.08 °C. This compares to an expected warming of about 2.5 °C over the same period due to greenhouse gases (according to the IPCC’s B2 scenario for greenhouse gas emissions that does not involve efforts to mitigate emissions). In addition the study also showed that if solar output reduced below that seen in the Maunder Minimum – a period between 1645 and 1715 when solar activity was at its lowest observed level – the global temperature reduction would be 0.13C.
Back to that response from chrisd3. He offered this, “Finally, here is a chart of global temps from HadCRU.” Here is that chart, remember we are looking at Global temperatures.
OK, between this Post and my Post last Friday, you probably get the message! There were many other contributions and I could go on and on quoting the great responses I got, all of them uniformly saying there IS global warming unprecedented in recent years. The message is crystal clear and those who wish to deny the evidence … well, I can’t come up with a polite term, so will just leave it at that!
My final contribution is from Martin Lack, author of the Blog Lack of Environment, and a good friend of Learning from Dogs. Here is what he wrote in a recent email,
You may have seen my latest response to How much is most?
When I eventually saw your earlier comment, I was surprised and disappointed in equal measure because I almost feel that I have failed in some way. Let me explain: Unlike ClimateSight and SkepticalScience, which both do an excellent job of focusing on the science of climate change, my blog is deliberately focused on the politics underlying the denial of all environmental our problems; including 2 key aspects to my MA dissertation, namely the political misuse of scepticism; and the psychology of denial. See my How to be a Climate Change ‘Sceptic’ for more detail.
Therefore, although not specifically categorised as such, just about everything I have posted is traceable back to Paul and Anne Ehrlich’sBetrayal of Science and Reason (1996) and/or Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway’s Merchants of Doubt (2010). For someone who does not currently go to any Church, I am remarkably fond of quoting Scripture so, if necessary, please forgive me but, as the Good Book says: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
Therefore, I do not think you should be surprised by the amount of misinformation and misrepresentation contained in the original WSJ Sixteen’s article; and/or the fact that denialist arguments are repeated no matter how many times they have been shown to be false. Furthermore, I would warn against trying to summarise it all on Learning from Dogs. This is definitely Book territory and, in addition to the two mentioned above, the market is already saturated by the likes of Climate Change Cover-up by James Hoggan and Climate Change Denial by Haydn Washington and John Cook.
With very best wishes for a fog-free future,
What to say to close these two Posts off? Frankly, it’s difficult to know how to pitch it. The science seems clear beyond reasonable doubt. But if you are reading this and disagree, then PLEASE offer the science to refute the conclusions presented here. I promise you that I will present it on Learning from Dogs.
So let me end with a simple photograph.
This is the photograph that wilderness photographer Galen Rowell called, “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.”
The now world-famous photograph was taken by Astronaut William Anders from Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the Moon, a little over 43 years ago on December 24th, 1968.
As the Earth rose above the horizon of the moon, NASA astronaut Frank Borman uttered the words, “Oh my God! Look at that picture over there! Here’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty.” Bill Anders then took the ‘unscheduled’ photograph.
Now project forward 43 years to the year 2055 and play with the idea of what ‘pretty‘ planet Earth will be like for mankind and so many other species, including our longest companion, the dog, if we don’t get our act together pretty soon!